Clause 25 - Physical or mental condition

Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 14th January 2003.

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Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 10:15 am, 14th January 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 35, in

clause 25, page 10, line 34, at end insert

', or

(c) order the person's detention for treatment if the person would pose a risk to the public if not detained'.

I want to make it clear that this is a probing amendment. Did the Minister and his advisers at least consider whether protection for the public needed to be introduced into the Bill when considering what the judge's power should be in the case of someone with a physical or mental condition? Let us say that someone appears before a judge, and the decision is taken that, because of their mental condition in particular, they are not fit enough to be extradited. Clearly, someone in that mental state might pose a risk to the public.

The Government have sought to encourage an expansion of the law in relation to mentally disordered people who may pose a risk to the public, and they have received strong support from the Opposition Members. There has been strong support from me, from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset and from the shadow Health Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), about the need for more secure accommodation for mentally disordered offenders. The Government, including the Minister, know that they will always receive great support from us on tougher powers for the courts in respect of those who may be mentally disordered and may pose a risk to the law-abiding public.

I wondered whether there was an opportunity to put in the Bill something along the lines that I suggested. I do not claim that my wording is perfect, but I am interested to hear whether, even if the Minister cannot accept this wording, the hon. Gentleman might be prepared to reconsider the matter and table a Government amendment.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman said that this was a probing amendment. I do not think that there is any disagreement between us, so I shall do what he asked and place something on the record, so that hon. Members and anyone else following our proceedings can examine whether anything needs to be added to the Bill.

I think that the hon. Gentleman and I agree that there needs to be some way of detaining those who pose a risk to the public because of their mental condition. However, no amendment to the Bill is necessary. A person can be detained for assessment under section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983 if he meets the conditions in subsection (2): he is suffering from mental disorder of a nature or degree that warrants the detention of the patient in a hospital for assessment, or for assessment followed by medical treatment, for at least a limited period; and he ought to be so detained in the interests of his own health or safety, or with a view to protecting other persons. He cannot be detained for more than 28 days under that provision, but he can be detained indefinitely for treatment under section 3 of the 1983 Act.

I believe that those provisions would be available to the judge at the relevant time, so that he had the power to do what the hon. Gentleman asks.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am grateful to the Minister for saying that, but will he consider whether, in normal circumstances, those Mental Health Act powers will be drawn to the judge's attention when he examines an extradition case? Might not it be helpful to say,

perhaps in a different paragraph (c) from the one in my probing amendment, that the judge must consider his powers under section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983, so that the court is alerted? When judges consider an extradition case, they inevitably consider legislation that affects extradition. Will the Minister consider referring in the Bill to those powers, which I accept exist? That might be helpful.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is impossible to refuse to consider a request that is couched in such reasonable terms. However, in agreeing to consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, I should point out that we cannot, in each piece of legislation, call to every judge's attention all the issues that they should consider. That is why the judiciary is obliged to make such judgments. I shall consider whether there is something particular or peculiar about extradition arrangements that warrants the powers being brought to the attention of a judge, although that would not be the normal procedure in dealing with other accused persons.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am grateful to the Minister. In his usual reasonable fashion he has said that he will reconsider the matter. Although it would sometimes be entirely inappropriate to refer to another Act, that seems appropriate when there are cross-references to other legislation. The clause is entitled ''Physical or mental condition'', and it refers to the judge's powers. There should be a provision in the Bill to remind the judge when he is considering extradition that he has that power and that it is not simply a question of extradite or discharge if there may be a risk to the public. Our concern is to protect the public. However, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.